HALL OF FAME TANK ACE Clifford Elliott

Cliff Elliott

CLIFF ELLIOTT INTERVIEW

(One Of My Favorites) Sparks, NA 1990
Cliff came into the 3 AD as a replacement Officer in combat in July 1944. He was a fearless hard charging platoon leader and quickly became a Tank Ace, and Company Commander of 33/E Company He had lost eight tanks and was wounded four times. This is his story about the Ardennes Trois Ponts, Belgium,
on the Northern Shoulder fighting under Task Force Lovelady. He charged with E/33 from Stolberg, Germany to Petit Coo, Belgium on Dec. 20, 1944 to cut thelines of Col. Peiper of the 1st SS Panzer Division. and continued to Trois Ponts

     My name is Cliff L. Elliott. I joined the Third Armored Division as a replacement on 24th. of July, 1944.WE were alerted on the 18th, of December 1944 in Stolberg, Germany. E Company left the afternoon of the 19th. I remember traveling through Spa, Belgium late at night, very dark. On Dec. 20, we run into a column of Germany tanks at Grand Coo. We engaged these tanks and they backed off and we rolled into Trois Ponts. I had a short Company, nine tanks, and the rest of the seventeen being in maintenance for repair. We were working with E Company of the 33rd. We were battling the First SS Panzer Division. After going through the double underpass or viaduc on the way to our objective in Stavelot to link up with the 30th, Infantry Division. We lost four of our M-4 Shermans to fire from an antitank gun. Lt. Hope, E Company Commander got out of his tank and went down the road with his pistol and was hit by an 88 shell, leaving me a Company Commander. We were cut off from the rest of the outfit on Dec. 21. The Germans had put up a bridge and made a crossing at Petit Spay and cut though our aid station at Petit Coo, on Dec. 21 and cut us off until the evening of the 24th. of December.

     We were harassed badly by mortars. Every time one of the men stuck his head out the houses or ran from one tank to another, a mortar shell cut him down. We checked every building in the area, thinking that an observer was living with us. There were four Officers with us, two from 33/E and two from 36/E, and I survived them all. The Company Commander of 36/E and myself were standing in the front of a cafe when a mortal round came in and crashed in front of the door. I yelled run and we ran to the back, and he fell over into my arms, the entire blast had caught him right in the stomach. I was standing shoulder to shoulder with him and my combat jacket was touching his, and I had a hole through my combat jacket and was never touched.


CORBIN: Cliff tell us what it was like in the tanks when the weather was very cold.

ELLIOTT: The winter of 44-45, it was awful cold, I remember the temperature in Trios Ponts was 32 degrees Below 0 Farenheight. I went out to check on my tanks and make sure the tank crew were on guard and not asleep, I would use a pair of asbestos gloves to keep my hands from freezing on the metal, we spent 4 days in Trois Ponts and we didn't move the tanks in that period. later after it snowed and in the second phase of the BOB we moved into Malempre It wasn't quite as cold, we had snow, but the equipment seemed to work fairly well. If we left the tanks overnight we had to start " little Joe" to warm up the oil so the engines would turn over. The oil would get so stiff the engines wouldn't turn over. Otherwise the men and the equipment functioned as well as possible under the conditions.

     In Trois Ponts I was concerned because we were facing the 1st. SS Panzer Division. The 82nd. Airborne were across the Ambleve River in back of us. Jokingly I told the men in the Company that I hoped everyone could swim because I was going to swim the Ambleve River before they would capture me. They said with all the chunks of ice floating down there. I said I would try it.


CORBIN: Did you know about the Malmedy Massacre?

ELLIOTT: I had not heard about the Malmedy Massacre at that time. In the buildings we were in, we found 10 massacred civilians.
     The balance of my tanks, the eight that were in maintenance with the 30th. Infantry Division broke through to us in the afternoon of the 24th. to relieve us. and take over our position.

We had a rest until January 3, 1945 when we took off to kick Van Rundstedit's butt out of the Bulge. We took off through Malempre, which was the first Village we captured in the second phase of the Bulge. I always felt that the Battle of the Bulge was fought in two sections, we had the first part up until January, was the defensive position, and we were trying to keep the Germans from penetrating any further than they had at the time. At the second part we went on the offensive the 3rd of January. I lost two tanks in Malempre and the company half-track, and two supply trucks, and a company jeep. On our next move we attacked Fratiure.

Col. Lovelady who had contacted Pneumonia and instead of going back to the Hospital, went back to CCB Hdq. And he monitored all the action over our radios. Major Stallings the Executive Officer of the Second Battalion of the 33rd. took over the Task Force. Major Stalling called me over the radio the night of the fourth and told me that D- Company of the 33rd. was to take over the point for the attack of the Village of Fraiture, Belgium. Their Company Commander stated that he could not make it up the road because of the ice. Major Stallings called me and asked if I could get my tanks up there. I said I see no reason why not. We threw some growers on the tracks and went right up the road.
There was supposed to be a T.O.T. on the village of Fratiure at 13:00 hours. We were sitting in the woods along with E- Company of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment. We sat there for an hour and the T.O.T. had not started Major Stallings said; we can not wait any longer. We pulled out and the T.O.T. started one hour late and a thousand yard short, I was screaming: Lift the T.O.T. Lift the T.O.T. Finally they raised it and we moved into Fratiure. I was getting sniper fire from somewhere. All I know was the flaking from the bullets was that ricocheting off the tank and the flaking was cutting my head. We had a SOP in the 3 AD that the tank Commander never closed his hatch. We fought those tanks with an open hatch. The first building we came to we took 85 prisoner out of Fraiture. I kept getting this sniper fire getting a little unhappy. I rolled my guns to the left and fired into the building and rolled my guns to the right firing into the building. And still getting the sniper fire. Finally we got up to the crossroads, I got up to the crossroads, my tank hit a stack of teller mines with the left track it blew the entire transmission and final drive out of the tank. It killed the driver, the assisting driver, and bathed the rest of crew in hot oil. I was evacuated from that position and sent back to the 45th. Medical hospital where I remained till the balance of the BOB.

Today's tactics and tanks are so much different then they were at that time, It's hard for me to tell today's Armored Officers how to run their platoons. I would say it takes more guts then anything else .You got to have perseverance, you have to have drive, I was nicknamed Wild Bill Elliot, I got to the point that that I could not get a tank crew, no one wanted to ride with me as I was shot out of 8 tanks and wounded 4 times.

We had M4-3A medium tanks like D Company and B Company had M5 light tanks with only a 37-mm gun. We had one advantage over the Germans tanks, being that we were on the offense and the knocked out German tanks were not be retrievable by the German Army. However as to the quality of the vehicles, our M-4 did not compare with the Mark 5 Panzer tank. The Mark 5 was the finest tank in WW II. We took on the Panzer many times, but there was no way we could take them on frontal. The slope on that tank was so great that they had only four or five inches of armor, but the slope plate was as such an angle that anything that any shell would ricochet off. It was equal to 11 inches of armor plate. The 75-mm gun on the Panzer was a choke bore weapon. It kicked up about 3600-3800 feet per second, more muscle velocity than anything we had at that time. Another advantage we had was power traverse in our turrets but the Germans had to hand crank theirs and the turret moved slower.

The first part of the war in Europe, we had the M4-A3 Sherman tank with the Ford Engine and the regular short barrel 75-mm that kicked up approximate 1800 feet per second. Later in the war we received some tanks called the Easy Eight's which had the 76-mm. In February 1945 the 3 AD received some of the M-26 Persian tanks. I received one for my Company and was threaten with my life if we lost it. It was a great relief to see something with a 90 MM on it. It kicked up a higher muscle velocity than we had been used to. They sent some special AP Ammo with the M-26 to test that kicked up 4000 feet per second. The Persians were under powered with only a 450 H. P. engine and was not powerful enough to propel that tank like it should have been, but the gun was great. The tube was 22 feet long and if you moved the tank and distance you had to traverse the tube back and put it into travel lock with an arm that sat on the back end of the tank and locked down. Otherwise the weight of the gun would trip the turret off its track. You had to move the tank into position toward the target and then traverse the turret. I gave the tank to a Sergeant Maslongick a tank commander who was an undertaker from New York.
 

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